19 Useful Assessment

Alexandra Bitton-Bailey

How Can Assessment Benefit Students?

The useful assessment provides “value for time spent” for students and instructors when it is used as a learning activity and evaluation. Using a blend of both formative and summative assessments throughout a course shapes meaningful learning experiences for students.

  • Formative assessments:
    • Pinpoint areas for improvement
    • Identify course content that may need to be reviewed
    • Guide ongoing learning activities
    • Provide data on the progress students are making towards a larger course goal
  • Summative assessments:
    • Examine the acquisition of knowledge, skill achievement, and content mastery at a specific point of the course
    • These are typically done as a midterm, final, or submission of a final project
    • They can also be in the form of a programmatic assessment such as a licensing exam

Both types of assessments can be used for calculating grades and providing feedback and can be combined.

What is Useful Assessment?

Get the best value for the time spent by combining assessment with learning. These are opportunities to identify misconceptions, correct thinking, and reasoning, and think deeply about the course content. Useful assessment is time-efficient for students, not just busywork. Consider how assessment activities can be time-efficient for you as an instructor because it serves as a feedback opportunity. It is ideal to parallel the work practices in the discipline

Online Assessment

View the Online Assessment workshop (1:07) recording to identify potential online formats as well as ideas for “authentic” assessment. Suggestions and tools to support academic integrity are discussed as well. The resources mentioned in this workshop are listed below.

Assessment as a Learning Tool

2-Stage Collaborative Testing:

“In a two-stage exam, students complete and submit the exam individually in the first stage. Then in the second stage, they answer the exam questions again by working together in small groups. During the “group” stage, students receive immediate, targeted feedback on their solutions from their fellow students and see alternative approaches to the problems. This makes the exam itself a valuable learning experience while also sending a consistent message to the students as to the value of collaborative learning” (Carl Wieman, 2014)


Paper and essay writing contribute to student learning in two primary ways: developing skills and cultivating learning styles. The Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) considers writing papers a high-impact practice that helps keep students engaged and learning deeply while they achieve learning goals and meet learning challenges (Kuh, 2008).

Paper Writing Features:

  • Flexible formats for writing
  • Variety in length and purpose
  • Formative or summative assessment

Paper Writing Challenges:

  • Students often regurgitate information rather than analyze and respond
  • Students often need significant guidance on writing expectations


Project-Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended length of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging, and complex question, problem, or challenge (Buck Institute for Education).

Students work on a project for a week up to a semester – that engages them in solving a real-world problem or answering a complex question. They have to demonstrate their knowledge and skill development by creating a product or presentation for a real audience. As a result, students develop deeper content understanding as well as critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication skills.

Project Challenges and Solutions

Challenge: Some students may dominate their group

Solution: Suggest students assume project roles that resemble a real-world team

Challenge: Some students prefer not to participate

Solution 1: Projects require preparation

Solution 2: Enlist students in identifying scenarios

Challenge: Students want a rubric

Solutions: Have students assist in determining the criteria for success

Challenge: Takes significant class time

Solution 1: Use problems that provide the best “bang for the buck”

Solution 2: Scaffold with outside-of-class learning

Challenge: Requires patience

Solution 1: Refer to the big picture

Solution 2: Reflection to show how far students have come

Solution 3: Establish an environment of trust: “This goes both ways”

Recall Practice

If there is specific information that students must be able to remember, such as medical students knowing the bones and muscles, then it will be important to provide practice recalling these facts throughout the semester. (Brown, Roediger, & McDaniel, 2014)

  • “Spaced Recall” activities involving the same information should be repeated throughout the semester
  • Switching between concepts or “interleaving” requires students to work harder to access items stored in memory
  • Both practices are needed for students to commit new learning to long-term memory

Interleaving generally causes students to make more mistakes initially leading to a sense of frustration and a feeling that they are not “learning.” It will be important to remind students that these learning practices support recall beyond the confines of the current semester. Students might also have to refer to earlier chapters of their textbook for support. I found that providing students with page numbers for the relevant information and warning them of the increased difficulty helped their progress.

Easy to use methods:

  • First 5 minutes quizzes
  • Flashcards
  • Comparing and learning models
  • Revision lessons

Mastery Quizzes

Mastery quizzes encourage information retention and transfer. Student learning is further enhanced when learners are given multiple opportunities to recall new material. Create low-stakes online quizzes with multiple attempts (3 attempts will encourage learning rather than guessing) and answer-level feedback. These provide low-pressure recall practice without using up valuable class time. Meaningful feedback helps them focus on areas of improvement and provides specifics for correction (Gillard-Cook & West, 2006).

Mastery Quiz Benefits:

  • Encourages mastery rather than grades
  • Helps learners identify gaps and areas of improvement
  • Are time-efficient for students and instructors
  • Allows instructors to provide supporting resources
  • Encourages learners to take charge of their learning
  • Reduces test anxiety
  • Provides low stakes opportunities to demonstrate learning

Collaborative Note Taking

Collaborative note-taking allows students to work together to create more thorough and accurate notes from lectures and readings. Students learn from each other, contribute from various perspectives, and correct each other’s misconceptions. Instructors can use the notes to check for understanding.

Tools: Google Suite, OneDrive, Perusall

For more information see the Cued and Collaborative Note Taking section of the instructor guide.

Assessment as Evaluation

Assessment is more successful when there is a clear and intentional plan in place. Without a specific strategy and intentional goal setting, assessments can suffer from unclear goals, vague expectations, minimal communications of criteria, and limited feedback. This can lead to invalid and potentially unreliable evaluations of student learning outcomes (Walvoord, 2010). Dr. Tim Brophy has developed the Practical Guide to Assessment a rich resource that guides all assessment-related topics.

Here is a quick summary of the steps in developing useful assessments.

Before the assessment:

  1. Define your student learning goals
  2. Select and define the assessment method
  3. Develop the assessment
  4. Check for alignment to other course elements
  5. Communicate with the students about the assessment

Once the assessment is complete:

  1. Analyze the results
  2. Provide feedback
  3. Reflect and make revisions to the assessment


  • Brown, Peter C., Roediger, H. L., & McDaniel, M. A. (2014). Make It Stick: the science of successful learning. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap, Harvard.
  • Kemp, J., Mellor, A., Kotter, R., & Oosthoek, J. (1970, January 01). [PDF] Student-Produced Podcasts as an Assessment Tool: An Example from Geomorphology: Semantic Scholar. Retrieved January 08, 2021, from Student-Produced Podcasts as an Assessment Tool: An Example from GeomorphologyJournal of Geography in Higher Education, 36, 117 – 130.
  • Kuh, G. (2008). High-Impact educational practices. Peer Review, 4, 30.
  • Gillard-Cook, T., & West, B. O. (2017, February 06). Authentic Learning: Rethinking Quizzes and Exams for Greater Impact. Retrieved January 08, 2021, from
  • Retrieved from
  • Walvoord, B. E. (2010). Assessment clear and simple: A practical guide for institutions, departments, and general education (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Wieman, C. (2014, October). Two-Stage Exams. Retrieved January 08, 2021, from


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UF Instructor Guide by Alexandra Bitton-Bailey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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